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I am very overweight, at 19 stone. I am in the gym, I go 3 times a week and normally do 40 minutes cardio on the elliptical and 20-30 on the low bike with the proper seat, I find the normal bike hurts my back. Is this an okay workout?

I am trying to cut out snacking but it is a hard habbit too break. Any advice on beating the urge to snack?

I could also use advice about how to change my diet. I hear all kinds of different things from people in the gym. 4chan have a joke were they call this 'bro science'.

For example many people say to avoid bread and pasta as carbs are the enemy. While the NHS site here says I should base my meals on stuff like bread and pasta. BUT a member of staff at the gym told me that is wrong. It's really hard to know what to believe.

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Always remember that most of the government recommendations are affected by some extent by lobbyists. Just look at the US Food pyramid over the last 50 years as an example. As far as snacks, high bulk/low calorie stuff. Cauliflower, broccoli, apples, celery with peanut butter, handful of almonds and raisins, things like that. Also include a little bit of protein with snacks which will help you feel fuller for longer. –  JohnP Jun 29 '12 at 14:52
    
You can avoid snacking by taking healthier snack options; i.e. making a fruit smoothie over drinking a can of pop. The smoothie will tide you over longer than the pop will! –  le_garry Jun 29 '12 at 17:12
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4 Answers

To lose weight you need a good diet, and you need to follow it for a long time.

Ignore any claims like 'Lose 10 pounds in 10 days'. In fact, losing fat (vs losing weight, consisting of fat, water and other body-contents) is relatively slow process.

A reasonable goal for sustained weight loss is 1 pound per week. So if you want to lose 50 pounds, which is the minimum I would suggest for your weight, prepare for about an year of dieting (or why not just a balanced diet for life?)

Ignore any advice, given in the gym. It is partially correct and partially incorrect. You can't judge what parts are the true ones.

I highly recommend this book: Why We Get Fat About

At your weight, I would reduce the cardio to 20mins, will replace all the rest with weight lifting (because you still need muscles to look and feel good, and be healthy).

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I'd amend this answer a bit even though I voted it up. For the weight lifting, until you lose some weight, I would do higher rep, circuit type lifting, and do at least 20mins of cardio at a medium intensity 4-6 times per week. But, that's personal preference, YMMV. –  JohnP Jun 29 '12 at 14:50
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+1 for the Taubes book and for reducing cardio to be replaced with weights. As you'll see recommended in many places on this site, Starting Strength would be a helpful read and an excellent program. –  Greg Jun 29 '12 at 19:47
    
Ignoring advice doesn't make much sense, that's like saying ignore any advice on fitness.se because it's partially correct and partially incorrect and there's no way of knowing which is true. –  Robin Ashe Jul 1 '12 at 4:05
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Losing weight is all (mostly) about diet/nutrition. The first step is truthfully recording what you've eat throughout a 2 week period. If you signup with LiveStrong you can track your calories via their tracker (they also have a mobile version): http://www.livestrong.com

Losing weight requires a lot of dedication, especially in the beginning, since it's a life style change. I would recommend getting together with a nutritionist/personal trainer once you've recorded your intake to get a good diet/exercise program together. Adhoc approaches to health result in adhoc results...take it serious

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Yup. Tracking what I ate for a week gave me a pretty good shock because I didn't realize just how many calories I was eating. It is a a major pain in the butt to accomplish though, you have to be pretty diligent. –  DForck42 Jun 29 '12 at 20:14
    
I'd say it depends on the reason for the weight. For some people it's all diet and nutrition, for others it's all exercise, and for most people it'll be a combination of both. –  Robin Ashe Jun 30 '12 at 7:57
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First, I'd like to reiterate what others have pointed out, namely that nutrition is critically important and that compensating for poor nutrition by means of additional exercise is generally very difficult and not compatible with the lifestyles of most people. For example, if you (the OP) were to consume a meal totaling 500 calories, you'd have to walk briskly for roughly an hour merely to neutralize those calories (estimates will vary within some margin of error and as a consequence of genetic factors, diet, medication use, intensity of activity, etc.). Ergo, the strategy of incorporating exercise into one's daily regimen without modifying diet is doomed to failure in the overwhelming majority of cases. Personally, I've found the following strategies useful in controlling my diet:

  • Maintain a daily log of everything you consume as well as all the exercise you perform. Establish a daily caloric limit such that you create a caloric deficit, and make it your aim to not exceed that limit (i.e., calories_consumed - calories_expended < caloric_limit). To estimate the caloric content of your meals, consult http://www.nutritiondata.com/, and use one of the many BMR/RMR calculators (q.v., http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calrmr.htm) available online to determine your baseline daily caloric needs.
  • Consider practicing intermittent fasting in some form, if health and lifestyle factors allow. Anecdotally, I've found this to be effective in restricting my caloric intake without causing adverse side-effects, and there's an ample body of evidence that it confers other general health benefits as well (see the footnotes on the Wikipedia page I linked, or do a search on PubMed).
  • Place an emphasis on total caloric value rather than the source of said calories (i.e., the types food you eat). It may be true that adhering to a roughly balanced diet, or a high-protein diet, or a paleolithic diet, or a ketogenic diet, or [INSERT_FAD_DIET_OF_CHOICE_HERE] may yield certain benefits, but those benefits are invariably going to be marginal in significance when compared against total caloric load. If you exceed your daily caloric needs, you will gain weight. If you consistently maintain a caloric deficit, you will lose it. As long as your diet enables you to acquire sufficient minimum amounts of protein (1g/kg of body weight is often a reasonable approximation for most people) and all required vitamins and nutrients, it will be adequate. Micro-optimizing diet, particularly if it requires onerous lifestyle changes, typically offers very small returns.

Ultimately, in order to reduce body fat substantially, you need operate at a continuous caloric deficit. If you make this deficit very extreme, you will certainly lose fat more rapidly, but you'll also begin to lose muscle tissue and strength at an accelerated rate as well. Generally speaking, the consensus position among experts seems to be that some amount of strength loss is almost inevitable when undertaking a calorie-restricted diet plan, but that can be minimized by incorporating some weight lifting and/or resistance training into your exercise regime. Muscle tissue imposes its own additional passive caloric demands, and therefore maintaining muscle will ultimately yield weight loss benefits beyond even the calories immediately expended by the exercises themselves.

Finally, cultivate an attitude of extreme skepticism toward aggressive peddlers of supplements. Some supplements are legitimately helpful in weight loss, but most are either grossly overpriced relative to the gains they offer, dangerous, unsustainable in the long-term, or just entirely ineffective. Of foremost importance is caloric intake, then exercise, and then finally of least significance (and by a very wide margin) are supplements. The only one I can recommend without reservation, especially if you intend to pursue a weight-training regimen, is creatine monohydrate. There's now a fairly immense corpus of evidence that it provides numerous and multifarious benefits with respect to strength training and maintenance of body composition and muscle mass (again, consult Google or PubMed for the relevant studies). If your general health is good, it's also almost entirely benign and very cost-effective. That said, creatine use is far from essential, so don't regard regard its use (or that of any other supplements) as a high priority.

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For diet, the best kind of diet is the kind that adjusts to your needs. For instance, an anti-inflammation diet I'm going on starts you off with a bunch of foods that are known to cause no problems for almost everyone, and then it slowly introduces foods that are otherwise very good, but do cause inflammation for some people (ie, some people react badly to the histamines in bananas, others react badly to the seeds in raspberries), so you can figure out exactly which foods cause you problems. If your diet doesn't make those kinds of adjustments, you'll be gambling as to whether it happens to line up with what your body works well with.

That said, a good generic diet to follow is the glycemic index/glycemic load diet, it's primarily for people with diabetes, but anyone can benefit from it, and unlike any of the fad diets, it's unlikely to hurt you by following it. Also, if you are not already diabetic, it lends itself very well to "cheating" - as long as you eat one food item with a low GI before eating one with a medium or high GI, you'll not end up with a crash. It's also quite possible that following the GI/GL diet could help you with your snacking issue.

Otherwise for snacks, I find the easiest methods is to just substitute the snacks out for something else. Try to make sure that you don't have any problem foods in the house anymore, and when you go shopping make sure you've eaten enough so you're not hungry. You're more likely to buy junk food if you're shopping while hungry than when you're satisfied.

As far as exercise goes, cardio benefits some people and is counterproductive for others. If you've been doing cardio for a while, and you've been making some progress, even if it's small, it wouldn't hurt to keep going for it. On the other hand if you've kept steady at your current weight with cardio, you'd want to switch.

It's really hard to go wrong with a strength program that's based on compund lifts of free weights. A lot of people have reported weight loss success on the Stronglifts 5x5 program. The best thing with focusing on strength is it's a win-win. Either you start losing fat (although possibly not weight due to muscle gain), or if you don't you're that much better prepared to your better base strength to work on a different weight loss exercise program.

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